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Sunday, 6 May, 2001, 03:58 GMT 04:58 UK
Serbs block Bosnia mosque ceremony
Bosnian Serb demonstration
The protests show the strength of nationalist feelings
Serb nationalists in Bosnia-Hercegovina have blocked an attempt to start rebuilding a mosque destroyed during the civil war.

Hundreds of Serbs carrying black flags and shouting nationalist slogans attacked delegates gathering to lay a foundation stone in the town of Trebinje, more than 100 kilometres (60 miles) south of the capital Sarajevo.


This is a clear case of violation of basic human rights, but despite everything the mosque will be rebuilt

Islamic representative Mustafa Ceric
Several people were injured, including a representative of the international administration, although no one was seriously hurt.

Representatives of the international community in Bosnia have condemned the violence. An investigation into the apparent failure of the local police to intervene is now under way.

The Bosnian Serb authorities have expressed regret over the incident, saying they supported religious tolerance.

Reconstruction

The Osman Pasa mosque was one of hundreds destroyed in the Bosnian war between 1992 and 1995. Only a handful have so far been rebuilt.

Reconstruction work was to begin on Saturday, with the symbolic laying of the cornerstone which had been personally brought from the Spanish city of Zaragoza by the city's mayor Jose Altarez.

Muslim clerics during Serb nationalist demonstration in Trebinje
A new rebuilding ceremony will be held soon
But what had been intended as a reaffirmation of Bosnia's multi-ethnic tradition descended into violence, as hundreds of Serb nationalist demonstrators hurled stones and chanted abuse.

The protests are a reminder of the strength of nationalist feelings.

Ceremony postponed

Eventually, the visitors were forced to abandon the ceremony, taking refuge in the offices of the local Islamic community.

The head of the Islamic community in Bosnia, Mustafa Ceric, has promised to reschedule the ceremony at the earliest opportunity.

"This is a clear case of violation of basic human rights, but despite everything the mosque will be rebuilt," Mr Ceric said in Trebinje.

On Monday, a similar ceremony is due to take place in the northern city of Banja Luka, where one of Bosnia's most famous and architecturally distinguished mosques is to be rebuilt.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Alix Kroeger in Sarajavo
"Hundreds of Serb nationalists staged angry protests"
See also:

17 Apr 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Bosnia-Hercegovina
02 Apr 01 | Europe
Timeline: Bosnia-Hercegovina
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